The Chronicles of Knight III: End of Nightmare - Part Eight
The Rise of the Sun
“Thank you, Raatri,” Avari gasped, walking to her greatest friend slowly and resting her head against his side gently. She stood there for a long moment, shaking weakly in her pain as she stood amid the dark shadow-fog. She was severely injured – Raatri was sure some of her bones were broken. How would she be able to return home? Darigan had been able to fly her out of the Dark Side of the World to the Light Side and beyond to the Citadel, but Darigan was not here this time. If it came down to getting somewhere quickly, he wasn’t sure that she would be able to keep up. He had seen how hard it was for her to even walk, let alone run or be carried in his jaws.
“He made a mistake when he let me pass,” Raatri replied gently as he tried to shove the thought away, looking back at her. “He thought I’d continue on, but I remained just out of sight and waited for the right moment. I... I waited because I thought you might want the chance to bring him back, like you are giving me the chance to bring Cornelius back. But I should’ve attacked sooner, so he wouldn’t have been able to injure you.”
“It’s alright,” she said, lifting her head away. A fire was beginning to rise in her eyes as she looked at him. “I have been trained to continue on even after pain.”
The determined way she said those words, and the proud fire in her eyes, made Raatri suddenly wonder. There had been pride in those words – and the only way that Avari could be proud of her training was if she were also proud to be what she was.
We remember you.
Raatri looked up at the dark castle he had entered six years before with Avari, when they had been rescuing the long-captured king Darigan. The spirit-creatures that lived invisibly in the castle had tried to stop them, though Raatri’s magic had been enough to force them to retreat temporarily.
Raatri had never thought he would meet the strange shadows again. When he had supposedly defeated them six years before in reclaiming Darigan, the beings had only come to his mind a few times, just passing thoughts, and gradually the creatures had become mere distant memories, a shadow on the horizon that he could forget about. Up until now, he had only been reminded of them whenever they entered his dreams, which grew less and less.
Yet now they were suddenly there again, presences in the back of his mind come forward quickly and almost painfully. He only wanted to find Cornelius and escape this place! An entire side of a world, and he had to come across this castle again!
The pull of Cornelius’ magic suddenly began beating stronger, and Raatri’s ears perked up in realization. The Eyrie who had turned to Blake was inside the castle!
“Avari,” he said, turning to her. “Cornelius is – ” He gasped suddenly as his gaze met hers. Avari’s eyes were not blue. They were as crimson as his.
“Raatri,” she growled venomously, her face tightening as she bared her teeth in a low growl of warning. The darigan knight backed away suddenly, more afraid than he had ever been in his life. He realized as he looked to the castle where Cornelius’ magic worked and back to his greatest friend that the Eyrie had indeed cast a spell. He had possessed Avari!
“Avari!” Raatri cried out, backing away and unfolding his wings, trying to make himself seem large and dominant. “Avari, don’t listen to that voice inside your head! You are a knight, not a puppet of darkness!”
The normally calm face of Avari was twisted with rage, hunger, and pain. Her eyes, now crimson, glared out in wild fury from that blue twisted face.
Raatri was not sure what to do, though he knew that he needed to act fast. The goal of Avari’s possession, it seemed, was to attack and destroy him. Yet how could that help the Dark Side? Avari had no magic, and Raatri had one of the most powerful magical gifts of those alive. Avari had no wings, and Raatri could fly. Avari was severely wounded, and even if she were forced to attack, her attacks would automatically be slow and weak. Raatri was still strong, though a little tired from using his magic to destroy so many Nightmares. He could still fight though.
Yet could he fight his best friend? The way possessed-Avari glared at him now, with such hate and anger, her claws sharp and ready, suggested that she would fight to the death. Even possessed, she would have a hard time destroying him. Yet was there any way possible that he would destroy his greatest friend?
Then he had it – the reason for Avari’s possession by the Dark Side. She wasn’t meant to destroy him. He was meant to destroy her.
It was the game those on the Dark Side had been playing all along, and it seemed that he finally had a manuscript of the rules laid out before his eyes. Five years before, he had been stripped of his unique coloring, though after the initial shock he had come to accept the change. Yet Avari had never seemed to accept her normal blue coat, probably because her parents had told her how special she was, and her parents had been the guiding force on her path to knighthood. He had spent so much time trying to lift her up from her gloom that he had almost denied their friendship, just before they had entered the Dark Side of the World.
If he were to destroy Avari, it would be a further step into his own denial of everything he lived for. If Avari were gone, how would he live?
His eyes narrowed. Avari charged at him, but he simply dodged to the side, and she ambled on passed. She was panting slightly, her wounds causing her movements to slow. Raatri realized that he needed to find a way to break the curse before Avari wore herself out or he was forced to destroy her somehow.
He leapt into the air as she ran toward him again, narrowly missing her sharp claws. She howled in rage, but to Raatri everything seemed distant and slow. He realized now what he had to do to save her. There were three ways to break a curse. The spellcaster could stop the curse himself, or one with equal or greater magic could break it. Raatri knew just by looking that Cornelius had a great gift of magic, greater than his own, perhaps even greater than the Seer’s. But his magic was misplaced – he was using it for the Dark.
The final way was the way that Raatri had to choose. If the spellcaster himself were to be destroyed, the possession curse would be lifted.
He had to destroy Cornelius.
He landed on the ground and faced Avari, making it seem to the Eyrie who was probably watching above that he was going to attack her at last. “My friend,” he said quietly to the possessed-Avari, gathering his power as white light in his wings. “I do this for you, for you are my greatest friend. No others are as close to me as you are, not even the connection between student and pupil. You were the reason I became a knight, and although you don’t see yourself as one anymore, you are to me a knight as great as Jeran himself. How could I destroy my greatest friend and a true knight? How could I?”
A tear leaked from his eye as he quickly turned and shot his magic into the castle’s heart. Avari attacked him at the same instant, colliding into his side once before stumbling away, howling lowly with pain.
The instant he had released the thunderbolt of magic, a scream had echoed up from the very land itself.
No! You couldn’t have! We can never be destroyed!
Raatri grimly forced another bolt of white magic into the heart of the castle. If he were to destroy Cornelius now, then he could also destroy the castle and the shadowed beings that lived in it, the shadowed beings that had once stolen Darigan away.
He gathered his magic and threw another burst of magic into the castle, and all the castle’s defenses seemed to suddenly give out. Across the Dark Side of the World, all the Nightmares howled and began running toward the castle as if to stop its destruction. But it was too late. The castle began to collapse, bricks falling down and disappearing like shadows in the dust.
The shadow-beings’ cries echoed up from the land.
From out of a window, a feathered purple being took off and flapped away, a small creature clasped in his forearms.
Cornelius and Hyja!
Cornelius was alive!
Yet the time of this castle was ending. It continued to collapse, and the Nightmares Raatri saw coming toward it were howling silently in pain, each step seeming to cause more agony. Without any mercy, Raatri gathered his magic a final time, and with a thunderclap of his great wings shot another bolt of white magic into the castle. The castle crumbled faster, all the foundations disappearing as if they never were.
You have destroyed us...
Suddenly, the castle was no longer.
All across the Dark Side of the World, the Nightmares crumbled to dust and disappeared forever.
“Raatri...” a small voice whispered. Raatri turned quickly to the blue Lupe. She stood with her head bowed slightly, her whole form trembling with weariness. His gaze, however, simply stared into her wide blue eyes.
“Avari,” he said quietly, relieved that Cornelius had removed the curse before flying off.
“Raatri, I’m so sorry. I could see what I was doing but I couldn’t stop myself. A voice was commanding me to attack, and I could do nothing but obey.”
“It was a curse of possession,” he said, walking slowly toward her, hampered by the wounds he had received when possessed-Avari had collided with his side. “It’s over now, though. Cornelius cast that spell, and flew off when I was destroying the castle.”
“The castle!” she cried, looking to the place where it had once stood. The entire structure was gone – not even debris marked its fall.
“I think it was made purely of dark magic. I think... I think that those shadow-beings were the castle. They told me I had destroyed them just when the castle disappeared completely.”
“I watched the closest ones, ones that were trying to save the castle, crumble and disappear. I think the Nightmares are gone forever!”
“What about Cornelius?”
Raatri’s eyes narrowed. “He has magic like I have never seen before, but he is a hesitant and vulnerable creature. The Dark Side persuaded him to come to them with promises of power, when all they really wanted was his power. It seems like it had come down to me now. I need to persuade Cornelius back to our side.”
“What if you can’t?”
He sighed wearily. “Such power can’t remain on the side of Dark and with Blake.”
She nodded sadly. “I’ll be right behind you when the time comes.”
Raatri suddenly looked up. “Avari – look!”
The clouds in the sky were disappearing, letting light – light! – shine forth onto the Nightmare World. It was the rise of the sun for this side of the world, the first hint of sunlight in many long years. All around the two young knights, all the signs of the Dark Side of the World began to fade and disappear. The black fog was rolling away on an unseen breeze, and the howling sounds were silencing. The feeling of despair was ebbing.
The two knights stood in astonished wonder as the Dark Side of the World faded entirely from view and was gone, leaving only light in its wake.
As the pair turned and began back the way they had come, slowly from their injuries, they had no idea that behind them, a city itself was returning. Many would come to this city in the times to come, first to help solve a mystery behind a Betrayer and a King, and later to support their teams in a special game where sixteen different lands would participate.
Little did they know that as they left the place where the Dark Side of the World had once been, they also left the place where a new, yet old, kingdom was rising again.
The name of this kingdom was Altador.
Later another city would rise, hidden in the sky and revealed to Neopia by a strange and foreign ship that could sail through the clouds.
The name of this city was Shenkuu.
To be continued...